Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson apologized Friday “to all the women he has affected” after two dozen women accused him of harassment and sexual assault during massage sessions.
Watson, who could be suspended for a year by the NFL, made the remarks hours before Cleveland’s first preseason game in Jacksonville, his first since Jan. 3, 2021, when he was with the Houston Texans.
Independent referee Sue L. Robinson suspended Watson for six games earlier this month after concluding the player had violated the league’s personal conduct policy with “outrageous” and “predatory” behavior.
In her decision, the retired federal judge underscored Watson’s lack of remorse.
In a pregame television interview, Watson was asked what he would say to Robinson about showing no remorse.
“Look, I want to say that I am truly sorry to all the women that I have affected in this situation,” Watson said in the interview.
“I would definitely like to go back on the decisions in my life that have put me in this position, but I want to move forward, grow and learn, show that I am truly a person of character and will continue to move forward.”
Watson was accused of sexually harassing and assaulting women during massage sessions in 2020 and 2021. The player has denied wrongdoing, and grand juries in two counties in Texas decided not to charge him with criminal charges.
The three-time Pro Bowl player has settled 23 of 24 civil lawsuits.
However, Watson continues to face disciplinary action from the league, which has appealed Robinson’s punishment. The NFL wants the quarterback to be suspended for an entire season, fined more than $5 million and subjected to evaluation and treatment before he can be reinstated in the game.
The appeal was filed with Peter C. Harvey, the former attorney general of New Jersey. Commissioner Roger Goodell appointed him to solve the case.
There is no set time for Harvey to issue a resolution. There is also the possibility that the parties may negotiate a settlement.
On Thursday, a person close to Watson’s defense said the 26-year-old would be willing to accept an eight-game suspension and be fined $5 million.
The source requested anonymity to comment due to the sensitivity of the case that has attracted a lot of media attention.
Watson has continued to practice and was excited to make his debut with Cleveland, which traded three first-round draft picks to Houston in March for the quarterback. Cleveland later gave him a five-year, $230 million contract.
Depending on Harvey’s ruling, Watson could be inactive with the Browns indefinitely.
When Watson was asked what kind of personal development he hoped to achieve, he said: “I know I have a lot of work to do, especially on the field to make sure I’m ready to play when I need to, when I can get back in action. ”.
“But also the most important aspect is that I want to continue to guide and guarantee my development as a person, as an individual by my decisions on and off the pitch.
“I want to make sure that I’m evolving in the community as much as possible, meaning for the Cleveland community, which is the NFL community and beyond.”